Sep 15 2016

TV At 60: The Top 60 Part V

slider_darylsomersossieostrichContinuing this week’s theme of the top 60 shows from Australian television over 60 years. See also Part I, Part IIPart III and Part IV.

20. The Panel (Ten, 1998-2004)
As far as TV formats go, this one was pretty basic. Just a line-up of presenters discussing the week’s events with some special guests to keep the chat going and closing with a music act. It was remarkably simple but in an era before shows like The Project it was a means of bringing news and light entertainment together. Even though the show ended in 2004 it continued to present annual Christmas Day specials for the next few years.

19. A Country Practice (Seven/Ten, 1981-1994)
Debuting in the summer of 1981-82, A Country Practice introduced us to the town of Wandin Valley, with the main focus on the local hospital with an eye also cast on the local vet, police force and watering hole. Viewers watched in droves to see Simon and Vicky (Grant Dodwell and Penny Cook) tie the knot after a two-year courtship; but one of its top-rating episodes was the tear-jerker when Molly Jones (Anne Tenney) succumbed to leukaemia. The series also explored controversial topics such as AIDS, nuclear war, suicide and drug addiction. A bushfire was set to wipe out the town for its two-hour final episode in 1993, only to have the show revived by Ten for one more series.

sheilaflorance_000318. Prisoner (Ten, 1979-1986)
Originally developed with the working title Women In Prison, Prisoner started as a 16-week series but was to run for seven years and almost 700 episodes. Inmate Bea Smith (Val Lehman) was top dog in Wentworth Detention Centre for around 400 episodes, though she always had someone ready to take her place. Viewers adored the mischievous Lizzie Birdsworth (Sheila Florance, pictured) and Doreen Anderson (Colette Mann), and loved to hate officers like Vera Bennett (Fiona Spence) and Joan Ferguson (Maggie Kirkpatrick). Of all the characters to pass through Wentworth, only officer Meg Morris (Elspeth Ballantyne) stayed the full distance. Prisoner gained a worldwide following, initially in the United States where it played out in prime time, and later in the United Kingdom where it still commands a strong fan base thirty years after its demise.

17. Big Brother (Ten, 2001-2008)
We’d already heard of Survivor, but the much-anticipated reality format to come from overseas was Big Brother — where a bunch of strangers were locked in a shared house with no connection to the outside world, directed by the booming voice of “Big Brother”. Network Ten had huge success with the show, which also made a household name of writer and comedian Gretel Killeen as its host. Each new series brought a new batch of housemate heroes and villains — often determined by some clever work in the editing suite — and FM radio stations had a new source of content and talent for their breakfast shows. Replacing Killeen with radio hosts Kyle Sandilands and Jackie O ultimately sealed its demise before Nine revisited the format a few years later.

YouTube: andi2468

16. Sale Of The Century (Nine, 1980-2001)
saleofthecentury_0004A remake of the 1970s quiz show Great Temptation, which in turn was adapted from an American format. Sale Of The Century was hugely successful for Nine with the energetic Tony Barber as host, assisted initially by Victoria Nicolls and later Delvene Delaney and Alyce Platt. Glenn Ridge and Jo Bailey took over as the show entered its second decade, with Bailey later making way for Nicky Buckley and Karina Brown. Having updated the original format for the 1980s with great success in Australia, producer Reg Grundy ended up selling the new-look concept back to the Americans!

15. The Don Lane Show (Nine, 1975-1983)
bertanddonAmerican entertainer Don Lane might have thought his Australian TV career had already come and gone following his 1960s Tonight show in Sydney, but when he was invited to return to Australia for a Darwin benefit concert following Cyclone Tracy, Lane was offered the chance to host a new variety show. The Don Lane Show was the typical Tonight format with celebrity interviews, either in the studio or via the new era of satellites, and big budget music performances, often supported by the Tony Bartuccio dancers. It also brought a touch of Hollywood as when any big star of the past or present was in town they’d come in to the show, sometimes unannounced, as Sammy Davis Jnr had done on one occasion. The ratings were huge and the chemistry between Lane and sidekick Bert Newton (pictured) was legendary.

14. Kath And Kim (ABC/Seven, 2002-2007)
kathandkim_2A series of sketches featured in Big Girls Blouse and Something Stupid followed the antics of suburban housewife Kath Day (Jane Turner), her self-absorbed daughter Kim (Gina Riley) and Kim’s second best friend, Sharon (Magda Szubanski). The sketches were so successful that they formed the basis for a sitcom, with Kath joined by her new hunk-a-spunk husband Kel (Glenn Robbins) and Kim’s husband Brett (Peter Rowsthorn). Kath And Kim was a ratings hit for the ABC and more so when Seven snapped it up for one more series. A telemovie and feature film were also produced and the series concept was sold to America’s NBC.

13. The Sullivans (Nine, 1976-1983)
thesullivans_0001Life for a Melbourne family was never the same following the outbreak of war in 1939. The Sullivans traced the lives of Dave and Grace Sullivan (Paul Cronin and Lorraine Bayly, pictured) and their four children as World War II continued through the 1940s. The series was acclaimed for its thorough and accurate reconstruction of that era and sold well overseas as well as winning a string of Logies at home. When Cronin decided to leave the series in 1982 the war was well and truly over and it was deemed time to close the show.

12. The Late Show (ABC, 1992-1993)
After some members of The D Generation went across to form Fast Forward on Seven, the remaining team went to ABC to create The Late Show. Filling the void of Saturday night TV, The Late Show presented a mix of live and pre-recorded sketches as it mocked politics, TV, advertising, sport, pop culture and some of our social mores. The team comically re-voiced scenes from classic TV dramas Bluey and Rush and made them into Bargearse and The Olden Days, and created comedy gold with its musical mixups — where unlikely guest artists would perform songs made famous by others with similar names. Various sketches, such as the mocking of co-star Jane Kennedy‘s appearance on a celebrity edition of Sale Of The Century, are still memorable today!

YouTube: douchebag

11. Hey Hey It’s Saturday (Nine, 1971-1977, 1979-1999)
What began as a low-key Saturday morning show of cartoons would later evolve into one of Nine‘s most valuable prime-time brands. Host Daryl Somers was initially assisted by footballer Peter McKenna — but McKenna was soon to make way for an ostrich! With Somers and Ossie Ostrich (pictured at top) up front, they were to be joined by booth announcer John Blackman, and after a while they didn’t bother playing the cartoons anymore. A brief detour to Melbourne’s ATV0 for the ill-fated The Daryl And Ossie Show in 1978 saw the team return to Nine a year later, a little older and wiser, and this time joined by Queenslander Jacki MacDonald. The move to prime time in 1984 saw a greater emphasis on variety and for years its ratings were unbeatable as the early evening timeslot meant viewers could keep up with the show before heading out for the night. MacDonald left Hey Hey in 1988, making way for others including Denise Drysdale, Jo Beth Taylor and Livinia Nixon. Nostalgia saw the show revived for two reunion specials in 2009 and, surprising everyone, a new series in 2010.




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Sep 14 2016

TV At 60: The Top 60 Part IV

slider_mikewalshContinuing this week’s theme of the top 60 shows from Australian television over 60 years. See also Part I, Part II and Part III.

30. We Can Be Heroes (ABC, 2005)
Comedian Chris Lilley had a stand out hit when he played not one but all six lead characters vying for the title of Australian of the Year in this mockumentary-style comedy.

29. The Project (Ten, 2009-)
It’s a delicate balance to get news and comedy to work together, but The Project has emerged as a success. It perfectly typifies the Network Ten brand of youth and provides an alternative to traditional news and current affairs. It will make laughs of the news but also explores more serious social topics. Two of the show’s hosts, Carrie Bickmore and Waleed Aly, have won TV Week Gold Logies.

goback28. Go Back To Where You Came From (SBS, 2011-2012, 2015)
The asylum-seeker debate has always been a controversial one in Australia, and SBS had huge ratings and critical success (including coverage in The New York Times) in taking six outspoken Australians — most of whom were against the settlement of refugees — on a journey to see just what makes these people leave war-torn countries in unstable and unsafe vessels in the hope of starting a new life in a distant land.

27. Spicks And Specks (ABC, 2005-2011, 2014)
spicksandspecksThe seemingly simple format of quizzes and games with a music theme was to be a hit for ABC, largely due to the chemistry between host Adam Hills and team captains Myf Warhurst and Alan Brough, but also via its stream of guest artists representing a Who’s Who of comedians and the music industry from Australia and overseas spanning multiple generations. ABC revisited the format a few years later with a new host and team captains but never quite matched the chemistry or popularity of the original.

tvweek_03086826. Skippy The Bush Kangaroo (Nine, 1968-1970)
What began as a children’s adventure series was to become an icon of Australian culture as Skippy was soon exported to over 100 countries and dubbed into various languages. Ninety-one episodes saw Skippy (pictured with Ed Devereaux) tackle villains and cope with all manner of challenges with human-like ease and intelligence. Almost 50 years since its debut the show is still going in re-runs on the Nine Network.

25. The Comedy Company (Ten, 1988-1990)
The Melbourne comedy scene in the 1980s was to be a breeding ground for the renaissance of Australian TV comedy in the late 1980s. Melbourne’s HSV7 had a short-lived sketch comedy series, The Eleventh Hour in 1985, that would form the origin of what would emerge three years later as The Comedy Company. Originally launched in a low-profile Tuesday timeslot, Network Ten took a gamble and shifted the show to 7.30pm Sunday — the most competitively intense timeslot of the week. It was a gamble that paid off handsomely and the irony in big-budget shows like 60 Minutes being knocked off by a cheap studio-based comedy was not missed. The characters of The Comedy Company became suburban heroes — with the likes of Col’n Carpenter, Con The Fruiterer, Uncle Arthur and Kylie Mole (pictured) — and triggered a whole new breed of Australian TV comedy.

motherandson_000224. Mother And Son (ABC, 1984-1994)
The comic tale of a geriatric mother in the care of her often-frustrated son ran for six series over ten years. Ruth Cracknell, as the confused but still crafty Maggie Beare, and Garry McDonald as son Arthur were a winning pair supported by Henri Szeps and Judy Morris, and scripting by Geoffrey Atherden.

23. The Mike Walsh Show (Ten/Nine, 1973-1985)
In the early 1970s Mike Walsh (pictured top with Margaret Whitlam) sought to prove that housewives and retirees, who made up the majority of daytime TV audiences, deserved better content in daytime TV than re-runs, cheap game shows and segments on housekeeping. The Mike Walsh Show not only brought variety to afternoons but also frank and open discussion about all manner of social topics, including everything from politics to sex to immigration. Among its stable of regulars were Jeanne Little, John Michael HowsonDr James Wright and music director Geoff Harvey. Its success — first on the 0-10 Network before going across to Nine in 1977 — saw it earn the type of ratings at midday that many prime time shows would have envied. Ironically when the show itself moved to prime time it didn’t last long, but the daytime format lived on for years to come as Midday.

22. 60 Minutes (Nine, 1979-)
Based on an American format of the same name, 60 Minutes was a multi-million dollar gamble played by Kerry Packer to establish a premium current affairs brand for his Nine Network. Early ratings would have almost justified the axe but Nine persisted and 60 Minutes was soon to become a flagship for the network and its early crew of reporters, including Ray Martin, George Negus and Jana Wendt, became as famous as the stories they covered.

ytt_1979a21. Young Talent Time (Ten, 1971-1988)
It was camp, it was cheesy and it wasn’t overly original, but Young Talent Time managed to strike a chord with kids and families across Australia. Featuring ’60s pop star Johnny Young leading a cheery bunch of junior performers, Young Talent Time took kids from suburbs and turned them into seasoned performers, with Debra Byrne, Tina Arena and Dannii Minogue among its most famous alumni — although in the ’70s its biggest star was teenager Jamie Redfern, who ended up touring the US under the wing of legendary performer Liberace. The nostalgia from the original saw Ten revive the format in 2012 but the new Young Talent Time lacked the charm of the original and limped off air after its three month season was completed.




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Sep 13 2016

TV At 60: The Top 60 Part III


Continuing this week’s theme of the top 60 shows from Australian television over 60 years. See also Part I and Part II.

40. Bangkok Hilton (Ten, 1989)
Coming in at the tail-end of the era of big-budget Kennedy-Miller mini-series, Bangkok Hilton told the compelling story of the vulnerable Aussie tourist who inadvertently got caught up in drug smuggling and ended up in a Bangkok prison. Featuring Nicole Kidman in the lead role of Katrina Stanton, Bangkok Hilton was a ratings hit at the end of what had been a challenging year for the Ten network.

39. Beyond 2000 (Seven/Ten, 1985-1999)
What began as Towards 2000 on ABC was to get a boost when it was picked up by the Seven Network and re-modelled as the much bigger and glossier Beyond 2000. The show that brought science and technology to a mainstream commercial audience became an international success story, being sold to a number of overseas networks. Beyond 2000 eventually went over to Network Ten where it managed to hang on long enough for the show’s title to almost become redundant.

38. Behind The News (ABC, 1969-)
Bringing education and news together, Behind The News began back in 1969 and for generations of school kids (and some of their parents) gave context to news and current affairs in terms that they could understand without being condescending. Budget cuts saw Behind The News axed in 2004 but it was soon to be reinstated and is still going today.

paulhogan_000437. The Paul Hogan Show (Seven/Nine, 1973-1984)
Working as a rigger on the Sydney Harbour Bridge, a young Paul Hogan appeared as a contestant on talent quest New Faces as a dare. His appearance led to a regular stint on the original A Current Affair and from there his comic career grew. The Paul Hogan Show (featuring Delvene Delaney, pictured with Hogan, among the supporting cast) began as a number of specials for the Seven Network before going into a comedy sketch series for Nine, with Hogan playing various caricatures and parodies. From there he became an international star through promoting Australian tourism to the American market and then playing the lead role in Crocodile Dundee, one of the most successful Australian films of all time.

36. Media Watch (ABC, 1989-2000, 2002-)
Since it began in 1989, Media Watch has been analysing and scrutinising journalism and the media in general — giving credit where it’s due but more significantly pointing out where the media oversteps the mark. Its reporting of the ‘cash for comment’ scandal in Sydney talkback radio scored it a number of awards for journalism.

35. The Curiosity Show (Nine, 1972-1990)
The Curiosity Show began as a series of segments on Here’s Humphrey before becoming a regular series of its own. It brought the basic concepts of science and the environment to a junior audience and won international acclaim, including the prestigious Prix Jeunesse in 1984. Original segments from the show, featuring hosts Dr Deane Hutton and Rob Morrison (pictured top), are now playing to a new audience via an official YouTube channel.

34. All Saints (Seven, 1998-2009)
Like GP, All Saints gave us a weekly dose of medical drama surrounded with all manner of personal and professional relationships and conflicts. Former A Country Practice and Fire star Georgie Parker was the lead in earlier seasons as Terri Sullivan, the nun who was now in charge of Ward 17 at All Saints Western General. But the show’s unsung hero was Von Ryan, played by Judith McGrath, the hardened nurse with a heart of gold, and the only character to last the show’s entire run of 12 seasons and 493 episodes.

masterchef_000133. MasterChef Australia (Ten, 2009-)
When MasterChef was announced as the big ticket reality show to take over from Big Brother nobody was all that convinced. Who would watch a cooking show, six nights a week? What sort of drama or human emotion can be dragged out over a hot stove over thirteen weeks? The critics were soon silenced as MasterChef became one of the biggest TV hits since the turn of the century.

32. Australian Story (ABC, 1996-)
Since its debut in 1996, Australian Story has covered the often-unique stories of a diverse range of Australians from their own perspective. Some of the people to feature on Australian Story have been household names, others less so but with stories just as captivating. The program has been widely acclaimed with a number of Walkley and industry-voted Logie awards to its credit.

againstthewind31. Against The Wind (Seven, 1978)
Although ABC had produced some small-scale historical mini-series in the early years, it took the huge success of the US mini-series Roots for commercial television to begin mining Australia’s history for big-budget mini-series. The first such production, Against The Wind, was a 13-hour saga which told the saga of Mary Mulvane (Mary Larkin), an Irish girl unjustly convicted and sent to Sydney to serve time. The series also featured rock star Jon English (pictured with Larkin and Gerard Kennedy) in his first major acting role, and for which he went on to win a TV Week Logie Award for Best New Talent. English also worked on the show’s soundtrack and co-composed and sung the series’ theme song, Six Ribbons.

Tomorrow, from 30 through to 21.




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Sep 12 2016

TV At 60: The Top 60 Part II


Continuing the countdown of the top 60 Australian TV shows. Numbers 60 to 51 were published yesterday.

Feel free to share or comment and there will be a poll later in the week.

peterluck50. This Fabulous Century (Seven, 1979)
Billed at the time as the most expensive documentary project ever undertaken by Australian TV, This Fabulous Century (presented by Peter Luck, pictured) took us back through 80 years of various aspects of Australian life, including sport, politics, industry, fashion, crime, media, the performing arts, war and natural disasters.

49. The Feed (SBS2, 2013-)
The relaunch of SBS2 into a channel of youth and emerging culture came with current affairs program The Feed. Presenting a mix of news, current affairs and satire, The Feed will effortlessly scan the spectrum of topics from the flippant to the most serious — noting special episodes on topics such as school bullying, drugs and Sydney’s lockout laws. The show has also single-handedly elevated Lee Lin Chin from the rank of serious newsreader to a cultural phenomenon and Gold Logie nominee.

YouTube: SBS2Australia

48. Life Support (SBS, 2001-2003)
Before reality TV really kicked in, Australian television was heavily into lifestyle ‘infotainment’. Shows about renovations, finance, cooking, dating, gardening and travel dotted the prime time TV landscape — all told with sugary sweetness. Life Support took the premise and sent it up ruthlessly, providing blunt social commentary (some of which they couldn’t get away with today) and the sort of handy hints you’d never see on Better Homes And Gardens.

47. Home And Away (Seven, 1988-)
Created by Seven in response to the success being enjoyed by Ten’s Neighbours (ironically, a show original dumped by Seven), Home And Away has become a huge success in its own right. For almost 30 years the residents of Summer Bay have endured just about every personal and emotional crisis ever known plus a constant string of natural disasters — bushfires, floods, earthquakes and even landslides. Ray Meagher, who plays the grouchy Alf Stewart, has been with the series since day one.

gp_199446. GP (ABC, 1989-1996)
The weekly tale of life around a Sydney GP surgery not only uncovered all manner of personal relationships among its staff but also brought to the mainstream audience a constant stream of diseases, ailments, medical conditions and social issues. For over 300 episodes its guest cast includes a roll call of just about every film and television actor known in the country at the time.

45. Australia Live (Nine/ABC/SBS, 1988)
A one-off production that really makes the list purely for its technical marvel in linking up presenters positioned all over Australia into a single four-hour program — a feat that had only become possible with the advent of the domestic satellite — to provide a snapshot of Australia to kick off the bicentennial year of European settlement.

offspring_000245. Offspring (Ten, 2010-2014, 2016-)
The story of Melbourne family the Proudmans has given us the full gamut of emotional dramas — from quirky and amusing to heartbreaking and complicated. With a strong ensemble cast (led by Asher Keddie, pictured with Matthew Le Nevez) and great guest actors, Ten was reluctant to let the series wrap up as it did in 2014, eventually leading to the gang getting back together this year.

43. Gogglebox (Foxtel/Ten, 2015-)
The premise of a TV show about people watching TV shows sounds ludicrous, but the Brits made it into a winning formula that has since been picked up in various other countries including Australia. A format that makes its everyday participants (including Angie and Yvie, pictured top) almost as famous as the shows being featured, it also gives us all a reminder of what is good, or not so good, about TV.

42. Bellbird (ABC, 1967-1977)
There was nothing all that remarkable about ABC’s nightly serial of life in the fictional country town of Bellbird, and in the cities it had barely an audience. But in the country it was a popular ritual to watch Bellbird leading up to the local news. To this day it remains ABC’s longest running drama and producer James Davern went on to create another popular rural series, A Country Practice, a few years later.

sylvaniawaters_000241. Sylvania Waters (ABC, 1992)
Often credited as one of the first reality TV shows, this BBC-ABC co-production took us into the lives of the extended Baker-Donaher family in the plush waterside suburb of Sylvania Waters. It made family matriarch Noeline Donaher both a heroine and a villain at the same time, as viewers watched, scrutinised and judged the family’s dramas every week.


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Sep 11 2016

Obituary: Norman May

normanmayNorman May, legendary sports commentator for ABC, has died at the age of 88.

May, a keen sports fan, had been working as an insurance clerk when a chance meeting with ABC sporting supervisor Dick Healey in 1957 led to an invitation to call the surf-lifesaving.

From 1958, while television was still new, May officially joined ABC as a trainee. He called various sports for ABC radio and television and covered his first Olympic Games in 1964.

While covering the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games it was May’s enthusiastic call of the 4x100m medley relay that was to become his trademark: “Fifteen metres from the gold medal for Australia … 10 metres now, Brooks in front. Five metres now, four, three, two, one … Gold! Gold to Australia! Gold!”

May covered a total of 11 Olympic Games and 11 Commonwealth Games for ABC.

He was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia in 1983. He officially retired in 1984 but continued to serve in various media and ambassadorial roles.

Source: ABC

YouTube: Real Estate News Television

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Sep 11 2016

Obituary: Ken Sparkes

kensparkesKen Sparkes, for many years the “voice” of the Nine Network, has died at the age of 76.

It is reported that Sparkes died overnight (Australian time) of a heart attack while hosting a river cruise in France.

His career began in radio as a sixteen-year-old in country radio, but it was only a few years before he made it to Sydney station 2GB.

He then moved to Melbourne to top-rating radio station 3UZ. It was also at this time that he hosted the national pop music TV show, Kommotion.

Other TV credits included Homicide, Division 4, Bandstand and Wide World Of Sports, but he most prominent role was as an announcer for many years for the Nine Network and for radio station 2UE. His voice became one of the most widely heard in Australia.

For a brief time he was also a voice-over announcer for TEN10 in Sydney.

More recently Sparkes hosted the music program Jukebox Saturday Night for Foxtel channel Aurora.

Source: Noise11




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Sep 11 2016

TV At 60: The Top 60 begins…

slider_1950sAustralian television is 60 years old this week. It was on the night on 16 September 1956 that Bruce Gyngell (pictured) declared “Good evening, and welcome to television” to an estimated viewing audience of around 100,000 — whether they be at home watching on television or among the thousands to be viewing from outside shop windows, at household parties or at crowded club halls.

From the night TV began it has been subjected to judgement not just by its own people but by viewers. All of a sudden everyone had an opinion about what was good, or bad, about TV. What shows did we like, or dislike? What shows should we like or dislike?

It’s a discussion that has never ended and while we’re perhaps not watching as much TV as before, the discussion has been amplified thanks to the internet and the rise of social media.

In the interests of discussion this week we present a list of the top 60 shows that  Australian TV has had to offer since that September night in 1956. The criteria for listing from this jury of one is not based solely on ratings, or critical acclaim but also by what impact they had on the TV landscape or on this one viewer. But there will be a chance to contribute. As well as leaving comments below, later this week there will be a poll to see what your own all-time favourites are.

60. Adventure Island (ABC, 1967-1972)
After the abrupt cancellation of the popular The Magic Circle Club, most of the cast and creative crew went across to ABC to create a similar series, Adventure Island. Initially hosted by Nancy Cato, then Sue Donovan, Adventure Island was the pantomime-like tale of the characters of the kingdom of Diddley-Dum-Diddley. Even though production ended in 1972 it continued in repeats for some years afterwards, though with its episodes being in black-and-white it didn’t survive long in the post-colour changeover era.

YouTube: auspete

juliamorrischrisbrown59. I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here (Ten, 2015-)
Networks can’t get enough of reality shows, whether they be about cooking, renovation, singing or, in the case of I’m A Celebrity, being a celebrity (or “celebrity”) held captive in a remote African jungle. Despite the obvious cries claiming this is no more than faded stars wishing to extend or re-gain their 15 minutes of fame, the show has given viewers an occasional glimpse into some of the perils and pressures of life in the spotlight. But possibly the show’s greatest asset has been the chemistry between hosts Julia Morris and Dr Chris Brown (pictured).

58. Dirty Laundry Live (ABC, 2013-2015)
A quiz show with a difference. Taking the spectacle of tabloid celebrity culture and bringing it much closer to earth with some witty one-liners bouncing between host Lawrence Mooney and a rotating panel of comedians, actors, journalists and other media identities who sometimes let their guard down a little given the nature of the discussion. Being buried on ABC2 for its earlier seasons it never really entered the mainstream but It is missed.

lettersandnumbers57. Letters And Numbers (SBS, 2010-2012)
Based on a decades-old overseas format, Letters And Numbers had the most simple premise of word and number puzzles but was still challenging for both contestants and viewers. The combination of host Richard Morecroft, mathematician Lily Serna and writer David Astle (pictured) was a charming one. Even though the program ceased production four years ago it still continues on SBS in re-runs.

56. Brides Of Christ (ABC, 1991)
ABC’s six-part series of life in a convent school during the radical period of the 1960s earned huge acclaim — including five TV Week Logies in 1992. It earned ratings not seen by an ABC drama series again until SeaChange almost a decade later.

55. Wentworth (Foxtel, 2013-)
It was always going to be a tough task to rework what is a classic of Australian TV drama — Prisoner — but Wentworth, which takes a much more darker and graphic tone than the original, has been a hit with fans of the original series plus earning new admirers.

underbelly54. Underbelly (Nine, 2008-2013)
The first series of Underbelly, based around the gangland war that played out in Melbourne for around a decade, was a hit even though broadcast and subsequent DVD sales in its home state of Victoria was banned due to legal proceedings involving some of the characters portrayed. The success of Underbelly (featuring Vince Colosimo, pictured) created the opportunity for further spin-offs depicting other chapters from Australia’s criminal history.

53. Insight (SBS, 1995-)
What began as a regular current affairs show was soon to evolve into a forum discussion, often tackling divisive, controversial, emotional and sometimes quirky topics. Hosted and moderated by journalist Jenny Brockie, Insight manages to bring together different sides of a debate without it falling into a session of snarky remarks or sarcastic tweets.

52. TVTV (ABC, 1993-1995)
Hosted initially by Simon Townsend with panelists including James Valentine, Edith Bliss, Jo Pearson and Caroline Baum, TVTV was a nightly review of all things TV – programs, personalities and industry news — and being on ABC allowed it to take an objective view at all the commercial networks’ offerings as well as discussing programs seen on ABC and SBS. Possibly the first series on TV to actually give viewers an insight into what exactly goes on inside that ‘idiot box’.

51. Rage (ABC, 1987-)
What began as an experiment in overnight programming for ABC has become one of its longest running programs although its format is not much more than wall-to-wall video clips. No matter what the taste in music, Rage has covered it all at one point or another — often with the aid of celebrity guest presenters. There are memories of a time when it covered the weekly Top 50 and also each January when it delves into the ABC archives for some vintage pop culture programming.

Part II: 50 through to 41.

Part III: 40 through to 31.

Part IV: 30 through to 21.

Part V: 20 through to 11

Part VI: 10 through to 1.






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Sep 07 2016

“Top of the Nation Station” turns 50

FNQ10_1966Fifty years ago, viewers in Cairns and the Far North Queensland region were witness to the launch of Australia’s 40th commercial television station — FNQ10.

Dubbed “the Top of the Nation Station”, FNQ10 made its debut from studios located at Aumuller Street with an official function at the House on the Hill restaurant. Opening night was the culmination of seven years of planning, started in 1959 when local newspaper The Cairns Post and Far Northern Theatres Ltd began discussions over forming a local television service — two years before the government had even invited applications.

The new company, Far Northern Television Ltd, was announced as the successful applicant for the Cairns licence in September 1963.

The new channel, FNQ10, was initially broadcasting from a temporary transmitter on Aumuller Street, co-located with ABC‘s existing channel ABNQ9, on a jointly-owned PMG-ABC tower already in place for other communications. FNQ10 had acquired land directly adjacent to the tower site for its studio complex.

The temporary transmitter arrangement was a necessity due to surveying still taking place to find a suitable, accessible and affordable mountain-top location for a permanent high-power transmitter for both ABC and FNQ. Without this arrangement it was estimated that TV services could not begin in the area until 1968 or 1969 but as an interim would provide at least the region’s major population centres of Cairns and Innisfail with a television service.

The Cairns Post, 7 September 1966

The Cairns Post, 7 September 1966

Opening night, Wednesday 7 September 1966, began on-air at 5.55pm with an announcement of the night’s programs. Disneyland and the special An Evening With Fred Astaire were the first programs to air. At 8pm the formal inauguration of the channel took place, with Postmaster-General Alan Hulme declaring FNQ10 officially open around four minutes past eight in a pre-recorded speech.

FNQ10_1966_0003There were also speeches by Myles Wright, chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, William Smith, chairman of Far Northern Television Limited, and management of FNQ10.

Once the formalities were out of the way, FNQ10 presented the movie Happy Anniversary, starring David Niven and Mitzi Gaynor. The station closed its first night’s transmission at 10.00pm.

In its first week of transmission FNQ10 broadcast for around five hours each night, including the Monday to Friday children’s session Channel Ten Teleclub and the Thursday afternoon women’s program Thursday At Four. Local production also included a nightly 15-minute news bulletin, compiled in association with The Cairns Post, and weekly cooking demonstrations from the CREB (Cairns Regional Electricity Board).

FNQ10_1966_0002With station management claiming access to “an embarrassment of riches” of programming, imported titles launched in the first weeks included Beverly Hillbillies, The Patty Duke Show, Casey Jones, The Fugitive, The Lucy Show, Dangerman, Wagon Train, Gilligan’s Island, Bewitched, The Bugs Bunny Show, The Addams Family, Bonanza, The Ed Sullivan Show, Father Knows Best, The Saint, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Petticoat Junction, McHale’s Navy and The Man From UNCLE.

Australian-made programming included Pick A Box, Bandstand and the sitcom My Name’s McGooley What’s Yours.

By the early 1970s FNQ10 had merged with Townsville-based TNQ7 and would become known as NQTV, presenting a uniform program schedule across both channels.


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The advent of aggregation in the early Nineties saw NQTV change its on-air branding to QTV — in preparation for expansion of its signal through the regional Queensland market all the way down to Toowoomba and the Southern Downs region. QTV, in part owned by the Nine Network, was intended to be a Nine affiliate with the change to a competitive market under aggregation.

Construction of a new studio complex in Cairns brought ambitions of hosting programs for the Nine Network, but prolonged negotiations with Nine over program access fees saw Nine withdraw from negotiations only days before QTV’s statewide launch. The sudden change saw QTV have to make urgent ties with the Ten Network for program supply. A name change from QTV to Ten Queensland soon followed.

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Telecasters North Queensland, which controlled Ten Queensland, was eventually taken over by Southern Cross Broadcasting — a predecessor to what is now Southern Cross Austereo — joining a network of Ten affiliates already operating in New South Wales, ACT and Victoria.

9_logo_2009_0002Ten Queensland later became known as Southern Cross Ten. From July this year, Southern Cross Austereo made the change from Ten to Nine network affiliation in Queensland, Southern NSW, ACT and Victoria, and re-branding as Nine.

Source: The Cairns Post, 7 and 8 September 1966.




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Sep 05 2016

Obituary: Ian Hill

ianhillIan “Beat” Hill, former producer and presenter on NSW regional television, has died from cancer at the age of 65.

Hill had always had an interest in conservation and wildlife but had been working as floor manager at Newcastle station NBN3 in the 1970s. It was after ten years at NBN that he had the opportunity to co-produce and co-host the wildlife series Beating Around The Bush. The program, co-hosted by with Art Ryan, was the spin-off from a series of segments presented on NBN’s Breakfast Club.

“We wanted to bring something to people in towns and cities which shows them how to blend with the bush,” he told TV Week at the time. “We want people to know that they don’t have to be a Harry Butler to appreciate the bush. Even in your own backyard, under every rock there’s plant and animal life.”

Beating Around The Bush was produced as a children’s series but also gained a following with adult viewers. It won a TV Week Logie Award in 1980 for Most Outstanding Contribution By A Regional Television Station.

In later years, Hill worked as a freelance television producer and director.

Source: NBN. Newcastle Herald. TV Week, 22 March 1980.



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Sep 03 2016

History on show for Nine Perth

stw9_logosNine Perth is celebrating its history with a free exhibition in association with the Museum Of Perth.

STW9, Perth’s second commercial station, opened in 1965.

Nine Perth 1965 To Now takes a stroll down memory lane with a micro cinema playing highlights from the archives of Nine Perth; genuine vintage broadcast equipment including cameras and tape reels; a selection of TV awards including TV Week Logie Awards; highlights from Appealathon and historical photos documenting the many local programs and presenters.

The pictures featured here, provided by Nine, will be among those on display.

As well, the first 1000 visitors will receive a free souvenir booklet with an original slide from the archives of Nine Perth.

The exhibition is located at the Museum Of Perth on Grand Lane, off the Murray Street mall in the CBD, and runs from 5 September to 3 October.

UPDATED 3.10.2016: Nine has announced that the exhibition has now been extended to 30 October 2016.









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